To put it kindly, it seemed like a huge mismatch.
Corona del Mar High's frosh/soph goalie from last year, sophomore Harrison Smith, was between the pipes waiting for Stanford-bound Mater Dei High senior Jack Seybold to take a penalty shot.
Seybold, one of the top recruits in the country, took the shot in the second quarter of Wednesday's nonleague game at Corona del Mar High. And Smith, making the varsity start with CdM senior goalie Will Snyder (groin) out of action, blocked it.
"He was nervous, but I think he did a phenomenal job," CdM coach Kareem Captan said of Smith, who finished with 10 saves. "I really do. He couldn't help but smile after that [block]."
For a while, Smith and the Sea Kings looked like they might pick up a big upset in Captan's debut as CdM head man. Instead, the Newport Beach resident Seybold and the Monarchs had the last laugh.
Seybold had seven goals and Mater Dei pulled away late to post a 14-10 victory.
The Sea Kings (0-1) were ranked No. 11 in the first CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll, while Mater Dei (6-1) is ranked No. 2. But CdM looked like a team that could improve on its ranking as the season goes on.
Senior Mitchell Cooper scored four goals for CdM, two of those on penalty shots. CdM drew three of those, converting all of them. The Sea Kings showed heart after falling behind 5-1 in the second quarter, drawing within 6-5 by halftime.
"I think we came out with almost too much energy," said CdM senior Henry Wilde, who contributed a goal and team-best totals of three assists and four steals. "[Captan] told us to slow it down and play our game, and it ended up working."
CdM took its first lead, at 8-7, with 2:45 left in the third quarter. Wilde passed up top to Cooper, who buried the shot. The Sea Kings also took a 9-8 lead when Cooper struck again from the right side with 55 seconds left in the quarter, before Seybold responded on the power play.
The score was tied, 9-9, entering the fourth. Would the Sea Kings earn another big upset over Mater Dei at CdM, like they did last year in the South Coast Tournament quarterfinals? The answer on Wednesday night was ultimately no.
Mater Dei's Kaden Kaneko struck from five meters, then Seybold scored on a post-up sweep shot to give the visitors an 11-9 advantage. CdM sophomore Tanner Pulice answered with a quick strike off a foul outside of five meters, but Huntington Beach resident Cameron Reagan scored again for the Monarchs, before Seybold scored the final two goals of the game from the outside.
Kaneko, another Huntington Beach resident, had three goals for the winners, who finished in third place at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions last weekend. Newport Beach resident Warren Loth added a goal and a team-best three steals for Mater Dei, which survived Cooper Haddad fouling out in the second half. Newport resident Jack Klinger dished out three assists, while Billy Motherway made five saves in goal, including on a one-on-nobody in the first half.
"Kareem has done a really good job with these guys, getting them ready for the season," Mater Dei coach Chris Segesman said. "I think they battled us today in every aspect of the game. Defensively, offensively, five-on-six, six-on-five. At the end of the day, they capitalized on our bad mistakes. We've got to get way better if we ever want to compete for a Division 1 championship, that's for sure. But Kareem's guys brought it to us.
"They played a lot better than I came in here anticipating them playing. That's a credit to their coaching staff, and their kids buying into it … If you asked me if CdM is in the mix of getting into that top eight in Division 1, I would say, 'Absolutely.' I think they're right there. They're in the hunt."
Only the top eight teams in Division 1 and 2, as determined at the end of the season, will advance to the Division 1 playoffs. CdM could still be in the mix. Senior center Will Klein also played well Wednesday, scoring a pair of goals, while Ryan Schildwachter also found the back of the net.
"If Will keeps building off of this performance, he's going to be a dangerous guy in center, absolutely," Captan said.
The Sea Kings play host to Long Beach Wilson on Tuesday before competing in the South Coast Tournament next weekend.
The rankings figure to change over the course of a long season. But to Captan, a longtime CdM assistant who took over when Barry O'Dea resigned in May, the Sea Kings will remain strong.
"I try not to pay attention to the rankings," Captan said. "We're training to win a Division 1 title. We're going to train to try to beat everyone … and I think our boys showed that attitude today. I think they showed the culture of the program. I don't care if we're ranked No. 1 or 11th, our mentality is that we're playing to win."